Struggling to keep pace in the NL wild-card race, the Atlanta Braves appear to be catching a break with their series against the lowly Texas Rangers.
Giving the ball to Alex Wood would also seem to help their chances of picking up a win.Wood looks to continue his impressive stretch in Friday night's opener against a Rangers team that's won once in the last two weeks.Atlanta (75-71) is resigned to the fact it can't catch NL East-leading Washington, trailing by 8 1/2 games with 16 to play, and has shifted its focus to the wild card. The Braves are two games back of Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot and also one-half game behind Milwaukee."We can't focus on the division as much as the wild card right now," Aaron Harang said after throwing seven innings of one-run ball in Wednesday's 6-2 win over the Nationals.The Braves snapped a three-game losing streak with just their third victory in nine games this month, and manager Fredi Gonzalez believes his team is primed to get on a roll."This is a big win," Gonzalez said. "This is a win that you look forward to maybe (tacking) on three or four more in a row and get us back on top of the wild-card mix."Atlanta seems to have a good chance to string some wins together with three games in Texas before opening another series against Washington on Monday.With a 7-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday, the Rangers (54-92) lost for the 11th time in 12 games. Texas has plated three runs or less in all but one of those contests, which certainly doesn't bode well for facing Wood (10-10, 2.90 ERA).Wood has a 1.95 ERA in his last eight starts and has limited opponents to a .193 average in the last six. The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits in seven-plus innings in Saturday's 4-3, 10-inning win at Miami."I just have to continue my routine in between (starts) and try to stay on top of everything," he said. "I just want to continue to pitch well down the stretch."Wood, who is facing Texas for the first time, is 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in three interleague starts.While the Rangers could have a tough time at the plate, the same may be true for the Braves with a matchup against Derek Holland (1-0, 0.64), who is looking to shut down a third postseason contender in as many starts since returning from the disabled list.Atlanta has been inconsistent offensively this month, averaging 5.7 runs and batting .287 in its wins compared to 1.3 runs and a .131 average in the defeats.B.J Upton homered Wednesday, and is now 3 for 16 (.188) with a pair of home runs in September. He has feasted on Holland's pitching, going 9 for 19 (.474) with a homer, two doubles and a triple.After missing the season's first five months following offseason knee surgery, Holland allowed one run, six hits and no walks in seven innings against Kansas City on Sept. 2. The left-hander followed that up by scattering six hits without a walk over seven innings in Sunday's 1-0 win over Seattle."I'm always hard on myself, but I definitely feel I could go longer," Holland told MLB's official website. "I feel I still need to improve. I was efficient at first and kept my pitch count down for the most part."Holland, who has never faced Atlanta, went 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in three interleague starts last season, but is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in two career starts against the NL East.